My pattern work is improving but there is one thing I consistently miss: I have a very hard time staying aligned with the runway on short final, say after passing the airport fences. When the nose points left or right, should I correct primarily with rudder or with ailerons using rudder just as usual to stay coordinated?

Cross wind is not a factor at this point because I miss even when wind is calm.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "Stop jerking that yoke and use your feet" - My instructor, every time we fly together... $\endgroup$
    – Quentin H
    Mar 29, 2021 at 11:14
  • $\begingroup$ Best to be coordinated in the pattern with a proper approach speed above stall. If the nose goes a little off line (but the plane is on track), use that rudder $\endgroup$ Mar 29, 2021 at 12:27

1 Answer 1


Rudder. It is amazing how much even a tiny puff of wind can move the nose off line.

If you are on "short short", just clearing the fence, your momentum will carry you onto the runway even if you are almost sideways. (But this is not good for the landing gear).

Most important here is to round out correctly at the proper airspeed (the earlier you get your approach speed right the better).

It is not unusual at all for the nose to move offline, keep flying the plane all the way down using rudder corrections to hold the nose to the line.

Only if your plane drifts towards one side or the other do we need ailerons, and this is how we do a crosswind landing: aileron holds drift, rudder holds line.

A light GA aircraft will usually pivot faster than it will drift. The physics is that the torque turning it requires less force than to move the whole thing sideways.

But air is rarely completely calm, so be ready to use your rudder and ailerons and continue using them until the wheels stop.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Robert, Crystal clear. I was hardly using any rudder so no wonder I was all over the place. Correcting only with ailerons (big corrections) makes plane drift even more due to adverse yaw. So as long as I am still tracking centerline, I need primarily only (small) rudder corrections. If track is drifting off centerline then use yoke to bring it back on track. Thanks again for your time and patience it helped me a lot. $\endgroup$ Mar 30, 2021 at 13:35

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